There is a kind of magic in the experience of feeling deeply heard. A special set of relational moments, “moments of meeting,” are those in which there is a profound sense of mutual connection. Such “moments of meeting” occur in conversation when something is said and received in such a way that the speaker feels deeply seen, felt, accepted, and understood. The prototype of this experience is the moment that occurs immediately after birth, when the new baby looks into the eyes of a mother who is looking back. Such moments of mutual deep contact are what the philosopher Martin Buber understood to be the essential meeting of “I-and-Thou.” The descriptive term “intersubjective” is also broadly useful, carrying the general meaning that two (or more) minds come together in a space of shared thought and feeling.
In addition to what is said in moments of meeting, equally important is the felt sense of connection. Regardless of what is being said aloud in a particular conversation, we likely have a felt sense of one other and some idea of where the other is “coming from.” This felt sense is the “relational moment”. Of course, not every experience of being-with is mindfully known; we may feel many things, including our connection with others, implicitly — i.e., without conscious awareness.
Moments of meeting vary in level of depth. The conscious experience of being-with is a capacity which is enhanced by mindful attention. Such moments often feel replete with Presence. Along with the felt sense of connection or intimacy there is a deep sense of being oneself. Connection may be so profound that the boundary between self and other momentarily disappears. Wisdom arises in such moments as the compassionate and intuitive knowing of the other’s experience, and sometimes as the experience of a heart-to-heart connection between us.
We can also engage a similar quality of deep meditative listening within ourselves by turning inward to explore what we are feeling and sustaining an attitude of receptivity towards what may be emerging. This may be called meditation, contemplation, prayer, or by other names. I call it INQUIRING DEEPLY. In this inward turn, we come to an inner threshold where we are in the presence of the unknown. At this threshold, deeper wisdom has a chance to break through.
The hallmark of emergent moments, whether listening to another or listening to our inner experience, is that they simply arrive: what arises can be neither predicted nor controlled. The emotional impact of emergent moments is amplified and the experience more vivid when they are experienced against a backdrop of deep stillness and Presence, as in meditation. Meditative listening deep within oneself opens space for things to unfold at the living edge of our experience. When experienced against the backdrop of a focused mind and a heart-centered, receptive listening field between two people, the impact of relational presence resonates between us, deepening the experience of us both.
When you feel heard a silence falls.
In that silence more may come
Often it is something deeper: you can feel it
Just now forming at the edge of being."
*More about emergent moments may be found in Schuman, M. (2017) Mindfulness-Informed Relational Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis: Inquiring Deeply. Routledge Press, New York. https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01N24V17T